Dust off that mixtape, the cassette turns 50
Although the debut of the cassette can be traced back to a 1963 Berlin fair, Philips dates the format’s official launch at the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam on Sept. 13th, 1963.
With the advent of the MP3, the cassette’s obsolescence can be linked to the decline of cassette sales, but as Vice points out, these numbers are incomplete because tape releases are not always quantified. Sometimes tapes are not barcoded and counted among traditional inventory. Bands sometimes make the tapes themselves, which rating systems overlook. But if you’ve been to a merch table recently, you’ve likely noticed cassettes reappearing alongside LPs and concert tees.
The cassette’s renewal in popularity is not because of its pristine sound quality. The cassette was only meant to replace reel-to-reel tape for dictation, not become a standard for sound quality. But why the renewed attention in the cassette? The A.V. Club put it best:
“Much like a pin or a patch used to, cassettes put a name and face to an artist. Instead of having to remember a Bandcamp link, they serve as a way to commemorate the experience of a show–for less money than a T-shirt or LP–and, potentially, keep fans coming back. While streaming a release online is the most fiscally sound way to distribute music, it is also the most disposable. Bands who hand out cards with website URLs or download links after shows know most of them end up in the nearest garbage can. A handmade cassette, released in a limited run–often 100 or less–offers a more personal connection to a new band than other formats, even a handmade CD-R. The cassette format is just a more attractive souvenir.”
What was your most cherished cassette? The morning editor’s was Ace of Base’s “The Sign.” “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe for our online art director. Your H/T’ed writer’s was TLC’s “CrazySexyCool.” Though the cassette died when his cassette player chewed it up.